Has your To Do list gotten out of control? When I saw it described by Craig Jarrow, the timemanagementninja, as a TODAY list, a light bulb lit up for me. To remember and keep track of all the things you need to do, you need to capture items in other lists. Figure out what lists you need, and where to keep them. You might decide to use a master list, or more of a GTD setup with a Next Actions List plus other lists.
But your TODAY list is best kept simple. After reviewing your calendar, choose only a few Most Important Tasks (MITs), three things that MUST be done today. Begin the day by focusing first on the top priority one. Once that is completed, move on to the next. If time is available, add more tasks from your weekly plan, repeating tasks, and action steps for goals and projects.
Important tasks can be routine things, like a report that is due today. But important tasks are also work that matters to you, like action steps toward your goals. Keep the important on your radar so that it doesn’t get lost in all the other things that compete for attention. See more about Getting the Important Stuff Done.
- You can also set priorities with the ABC method, time management matrix, or Return on Investment (cost/benefit analysis).
- Follow a daily routine to automate things you do every day. Keep yourself motivated with music, exercise and inspiration in your routine.
- Do you like to Eat That Frog? Or does the Sandwich Method work better for you?
- Take breaks in a rhythm that works for you: the Pomodoro technique has short breaks after 25 minutes, or the 90/20 rule advocated by Tony Schwartz is based on Ultradian rhythms.
- Don’t get sidetracked by time wasters. Be aware of the Pareto Principle, and make wise use of the small amount of discretionary or free time available.
- Tasks come at us in various ways: email, in meetings, conversations, and phone messages. Learn to recognize and add incoming tasks into your system, and delete the ones you accomplish.
- Plan for tomorrow at the end of the day.
Low tech: Set of a weekly planning form plus five daily planning forms (pdf)
High tech: I now use a combination of Google Tasks when at the computer (especially helpful for repeating tasks) plus GTasks and Google Task Taskary Android Apps for smartphone and tablet. They combine with more lists in Google Drive and Google Calendar nicely.
- Taskary excels at: ease of use, adding separate lists with sub-tasks.
- Gtasks excels at: sending an email for printing, and setting priorities. (In Taskary you can send one list at a time and star tasks.)
- Both sync with Google, and have the ability to set recurring tasks and reminders.
Combination: I send myself an email of my to do list from GTasks to print out as part of the weekly review process. I then copy the list from email, paste it into Word and delete the repeating tasks. (Taskary only sends one list at a time.) I keep it in a leather index card holder inside a cut-down plastic project file to protect it. Blank index cards to capture notes are in the back pocket of the holder.
Making Today’s To Do List is just the first step. Next is actually getting them done! Learn more at the Daily PlanIt Time Management 101 Tutorial.
Further Reading: No More Bloated To-Do Lists! at Instigator Blog, Inc Article The Surprising Secret to Time Management, Do Your Most Important Task First? at 99u & List of Ways to Ruin a List at Brazen Careerist. See also Time Management at Wikipedia